- Publisher: A. L. Burt Company; Spine Lean edition (1929)
- ASIN: B009NNQP9K
- Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (177 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,484,024 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Giants in the Earth Hardcover – 1929
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Top Customer Reviews
Per Hansa, the protagonist of our story, moves his family from a fishing village in Norway to the plains of the Dakota Territory in the last part of the 19th century. They are homesteaders, the people who settled the untamed prairie and bound themselves to it, sometimes at great personal cost.
Rolvaag brilliantly describes both the psychological effect of early prairie life and the Norwegian immigrant culture of the time. Being a new land, there were new challenges, new ideas, and new opportunities. In Per Hansa, Rolvaag invents a character that displays the passion and drive of the early settlers. His wife, Beret, like so many wives of the time, follows him with little idea of the hardships and, unfortunately, none of the psychological tools to deal with them. Their neighbors are wonderfully crafted: Tonesten, the whiner; Kjersti, his strong, capable, disrespectful wife; Hans Ola, the solid, dependable Scandinavian whose success is not so much from following his dreams as it is making no mistakes.
One comes to love the settlers even as they deal with squatters, locusts, sod houses, and the endless winter of the northern Plains. Midwestern Americans of Scandinavian descent will know that this is our story - our great-grandparents and great-great grandparents were contemporaries of Per Hansa and Beret.
Rolvaag should know this story - he himself was an immigrant and lived in Northfield, Minnesota for many years.Read more ›
It is translated into something of an epic style, somewhat like James Fenimore Cooper's Leatherstocking series, but its subject matter almost demands such a style. Because it tells an epic story, of Per's struggles against the prairie, the harsh weather, and against the burden of his well-meaning wife, who lacks Per's inner resources to thrive, despite the forbidding conditions.
But of all the homesteading fiction, "Giants in the Earth" is the closest to the truth of any I have read, in capturing the beauty and violence of the prairie, and the sincere, honest, hard-working beauty of the pioneers who tamed it. Because the truth isn't the pretty pastels of the Little House books. The prairie homesteader had a bleak, harsh, spartan existence, especially before the sod was broken and the trees were planted. There are substantiated accounts of homesteaders and their young families dying out here--starving in the winters if the food carried over from the fall ran out, or freezing to death in blizzards when the snow covered the sodhouses and the fuel was used up. Waves of diphtheria, tuberculosis and influenza killed still more, sending the remnants of the broken families back East. (But when the truth isn't pretty, it is usually covered up.)
So in my opinion, this is a story about greatness, and how even the most apparently humble men can become truly great--daring and achieving things that should be impossible.Read more ›
Giants in the Earth is a novel about dichotomous relationships. And in a novel that depicts how relationships ultimately define their participants, the central figure in this important work is the land itself. It is interesting to note the order of effects the pastoral loneliness produces in its inhabitants. Beret, like many other non-natives living on the Great Plains, views the land as a lethal threat too pervasively gargantuan to overcome. Per on the other hand, views the land like so many of my father's generation: a fertile blessing that contains some of the most arable land on the entire planet. The attitudes of the novel's central characters towards their situation comes to reveal their strengths and weaknesses in a poignant, bittersweet saga as morose and sublime as the land itself. Compelling, tragic, humorous and underspoken, Rolvaag's Giants in the Earth reflects the feelings and goals of an entire generation of immigrants striven to succeed at all costs. Thankfully for us all, they did.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is literature at its highest. Norwegian pioneers struggle to survive on the untamed, unforgiving Dakota prairie in post Civil War years. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Krista August
This novel has special significance to me as it tells the story of how some of my ancestors came to America and settled in the Dakotas. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Michael J. Casteel
Read it in high school and twice since. Bought it to have my own personal copy.Published 3 months ago by barbara holbrook
Very interesting story about early settlers on the prairie. It focuses on the hardships, so it's a good balance to some other stories that focus on how glorious and fun it was. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Rachel Meyer
Very well written. Characters were described to draw the reader in.Published 4 months ago by Margaret Granlund
I thought this was one of the most excellent novels I've read in a long while. It starts off slow, but it's clear from the very beginning that this will be a tragedy in line and... Read morePublished 5 months ago by fitz
This is an old book, published in 1927. However it felt fresh and new to me. The portrait of life on the prairie for Norwegian immigrants was amazing. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Franklin A Gould, DMD